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Wine Pairing help for Christmas dinner party

Starting second course to first: a bright, medium weight red with some acidity balanced by fruit: some zins, but also a Sicilian Cerasuolo, a Rosso Conero from le Marche, a Ciro from Calabria, Barbera from Piemonte or a Sardinian Cannonau. Many more, of course, lots from around the Mediterranean--from Spain, a Monastrell, France, a not too thick Languedoc red like Minervois. To start, a rose/rosato/rosado, if there are any left from Sicily, Rioja, Puglia, Corbieres, Abruzzo. Or a minerally white with at least some fruit and good acid--any of the Vermentinos from Sardinia, Ruedas from Spain, or a Greco di Tufo from Campania.

about 12 hours ago
bob96 in Wine

What to serve with cheese ravioli xmas day?

Just what I was thinking--great suggestion. Also, a dish of winter greens like broccoli rabe, blanched then tossed in oil and garlic and hot red pepper offsets the meat. With a green pepper salad like one of those presented here, you should be fine. I'd also assemble a nice bowl of seasonal fruits, nuts, and dried figs...and some really good cheese.

Dec 12, 2014
bob96 in Home Cooking

What's a traditional Christmas dinner in Naples like?

Ususally a mix, some more complete than others, of dishes from the dishes listed below, but almost always some form of baccala, shellfish or anchovies with pasta, capitone (eel), insalata di rinforzo. To be clear, there is also a traditional Christmas day menu, usually a full-on ragu with some kind of festive pasta like lasagne or baked ziti.

Dec 06, 2014
bob96 in Home Cooking

NYT The Future of Food

Whom does he assume in "we" and "our"? And how do you predict (much less judge) a future for, presumably, everyone in a world fractured by deep social and economic inequalities and cultural differences--many of which have a way of hanging around.

Dec 06, 2014
bob96 in Food Media & News

Mind of a Chef, Season 3

Just stumbled into this, with the excellent Argentina/Mailman episode. Very interesting, and Lee's blend of expertise, wonder, and openness is really refreshing.

Nov 26, 2014
bob96 in Food Media & News

Eat - a Nat Geo series airing right now

Agreed. Wanted so much to get lost in some kind of narrative, ut frantic, jumpy, and filled with wasted time--like all those cute shots of camera and production folks shooting a scene. Forced (and too much) humor. Are all the talking heads (who are some of these people, anyway?) men, by the way? The loud overweight LA chef--huh?

Nov 25, 2014
bob96 in Food Media & News

Long Gone But Not Forgotten! Manhattan Memories

Casa Moneo wasd on W 14th St, between 7th and 8th; was a remnant (along with a bunch of Spanish restaurants, also now gone--one was Casa Oviedo) of an historic Spanish (from Spain) neighborhood. The store sold everything from paella pans, chorizo, olive oil, rice, saffron, turon, and other foods from Spain along with imported records, books, greeting cards, cosmetics, gifts, and more.

Nov 18, 2014
bob96 in Manhattan

Loss of family owned businesses in Italy....A change in Italian Culture?

allende,

I missplaced my Strunk&White. Just an overheated way of noting the prominence of rural luxe in Italian food culture--those gorgeously staged farms, estates and shops that in the media's eye have come to typify "Italy". Don't mean, of course, to cast a cynical eye on the entire slowfood movement, which does so much good. I meant to suggest that the traditional spirit of Italian hospitality, represented by that Lebanese restaurant family, can be found in many of the corners not covered in glossy travel magazines. There must be at least one brilliant macellaio in Italy not named Dario Cecchini.

Nov 15, 2014
bob96 in Italy

Loss of family owned businesses in Italy....A change in Italian Culture?

Thanks once more, especially for the reminder about who keeps kitchens and store rooms open. Maybe the mayor of Lucca and his ilk should think about why this is. Of course, I should have mentioned the internal de facto slavery that kept Italian agriculture going before the land reforms after WW2, from the rice plantations of the Po to the masserie of Puglia. Not counting the millions of contadini who each day walked miles to and from their villages to till someone else's fields. Yes, also, to what that Lebanese restaurant represented--in some ways, something delightfully more "Italian" than the showcase slow food destinations that depend on waves of well-heeled tourists looking for the next private chapel of authenticity. Lanchester's piece is a useful tonic, too; I'd only add that food's not always just something there to eat--it's often a key instrument with which many kinds of groups define themselves--immigrants have always used food as a source of meaning in order to assert, protect, and also reshape their identities and places in a hostile society. Cheers.

Nov 15, 2014
bob96 in Italy

Thoughts on restaurants that claim to source locally, but don't

I think you've gotten close to the nub of a chaotic issue, and I do see more menus making something like the statement of intent you suggest. Beyond local/seasonal, however, how about the assumptions diners make about what the kitchen prepares fresh or from scratch? The default, I'd guess, except perhaps for chains, is that it's all or mostly freshly prepared. But given the "ambitious" mains on even modest menus (all those balsamic salmon and coconut rice and mango salsa coulis things in roadside pubs), my guess is that there's a lot of cryovac, foil, and other wrappings being collected along the line. Any data on this in the US? French restaurants got caught with their microwaves on high, recently.

Nov 13, 2014
bob96 in General Topics

What do Italians eat for breakfast?

In many of the smaller hotels we stay at outside cities, especially those with kitchens, breakfast can be an interesting feast: at one such place in the Cilento, breakfast always included a huige ball of fresh fior di latte, local and seasonal fruit, toasted last night's pane di casa...and many, many cello-wrapped cornetti and cakes of varying indiustrial-ness. So you sometimes never know. And very good coffee.

Nov 05, 2014
bob96 in General Topics
1

Why is Cheese Forbidden in Authentic Italian Fish Cookery?

They can, but more often the accumulations of practice reflect what most people choose to have--by necessity, circumstance, or preference. Remember that for many years, tomato with pasta was a rarity: street vendors in Naples sold plates of spaghetti (there, called vermicelli) with a little grated cheese or black pepper. And lots of traditional dishes that match pasta with legumes and/or vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc) in the south call for a last topping not of grated cheese but of toasted breadcrumb (mollica), dried hot red pepper, or a few drops of raw oil. Or all three.

Nov 04, 2014
bob96 in General Topics

What do Italians eat for breakfast?

I guess if you're staying with the Antinoris on their estate, sure. But my family in Calabria gets up and out with coffee, a little yogurt or fruit, and whatever Mulino Bianco cookies are around the house. Or some leftover bread, toasted, and marmellata. Off to work.

Nov 03, 2014
bob96 in General Topics
1

Why is Cheese Forbidden in Authentic Italian Fish Cookery?

There are not many, to be sure, but they do counter the "universal" sanction some folks have invoking. It's never anything where cheese remains a major presence or texture, but where it--usually pecorino---serves as a seasoning agent with breadcrumbs, parsley, and garlic and other flavorings to stuff clams or mussels or whole fish to be baked, part of a coating for fish or shrimp/prawns to be grilled or pan fried, or in highly flavored seafood sauces for pasta. I've seen such recipes from Sicily and Calabria as well as Puglia. Pignataro, by the way, while based in Naples and most active in Campania, covers the food and wine of the full south and Islands with a wide net and great skill. I frankly never use cheese with fish or seafood, and it is in Italy a minor-key combination: I raised the case just to reinforce a point that its absence is a general tradition, with long-standing exceptions, not always the result of some absolute prohibition.

Nov 03, 2014
bob96 in General Topics

5 days eating cheaply in Rome report (absurdly long)

Wonderful and enjoyable report (sausage and creramed broccoli for breakfast!), and you really don't have much of an editing problem. Many thanks.

Nov 02, 2014
bob96 in Italy

Why is Cheese Forbidden in Authentic Italian Fish Cookery?

For the record, Puglia, the Veneto, and Romagna have coastlines and long traditions of fish and seafood cookery. Puglia in particular has dishes that mix pecorino with shellfish and pasta, and with shellfish and breadcrumbs baked in a gratin/gratinato. Luciano Pignataro has a number of seasfood dishes--pastas, mostly--with pecorino as a condiment. Here's one: fusilli, mussels, and basil from Campania.http://www.lucianopignataro.it/a/fusi...

Nov 02, 2014
bob96 in General Topics

Loss of family owned businesses in Italy....A change in Italian Culture?

Many thanks for a wonderfully thoughtful essay. I'd only add that tourists and Russian moguls are not the only agents of globalization it's also a domestic phenomenon that affects the way ordinary Italians produce and consume. That fresh fish sold in Tuscany by Sicilians could just as likely be farm-raised branzino from Greece or farm-raised salmon from Ireland. Libyan oranges flood markets in Palermo, while in Calabria mandarini rot because growers say they cannot compete against fruit from Morocco. Immigrants from Africa treated like slaves pick Pugliese tomatoes that get shipped to Africa, And on and on. It's a world system, often cruel, but one that still needs local consumers to keep it going. Italy, I agree, still has one of the strongest traditional food cultures. But no matter how many tourists disembark in Venice or buy up seaside cottages in Portovenere, only Italians can keep it alive--meal by meal, day by day. In a recession, when austerity rules and thousands of jobs (and young Italian migrants) disappear the country, this gets to be even harder. But keep us posted, and thanks again.

Nov 01, 2014
bob96 in Italy

Loss of family owned businesses in Italy....A change in Italian Culture?

Thanks for your thoughtful comments on a thread that will undoubtedly continue to have relevance. I can understand the broad potential dangers of climate change everywhere, but have not yuet read much about its particular threats to the Italian agro-alimentary sector; but I'm not sure what you mean by the effects of "tourist shopping"--that retailers now peg their wares more to cash-rich foreign tourists rather than locals? Also, I wonder what you mean about the effects of American immigration, which is clearly small and specialized and iof anything more than willing to support a traditional Italian food culture. As for the almost 10% of Italians born or with parents born elsewhere: I think it remains to be seen the extent to which a particular group settles in, creates some economic and social presence, and, when it comes to food, both serves the Italian market while creating one for its own--as in the large Asian food stores and glossy restaurants in NY, Canada, London that serve multi-generational families. But which also atract many, many non-Asian locals. Perhaps la borghesia milanese will somebody eat regularly at some new high-toned Hong Kong fish palace, alongside 3rd generation Chinese Italian families. Romanians are the largest single group, and my guess is they might be able to "blend" more easily than others, so who knows if they'll leave a Romanian impact on the food culture. Also, finally, all this occurs as "Brand Italy" mounts ever more aggressive campaigns to promote and control what it defines as prodotti tipici around the world--with, ironically, growing markets in China and other Asian markets. It's all a global circus. And the global credit and financial structures have as much to do with street-level commerce as do local cultures. Here are some demographics.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demograp...

Oct 24, 2014
bob96 in Italy

Nino's Spinach Pie - Anything Like It Out There?

Remember it well, and really haven't run across anything;like it in the city. Did have zero otto's escarole calzone a few years ago, but not memorably--very salty.

Oct 11, 2014
bob96 in Outer Boroughs

Large tins of olive oil

Some Spanish oils have a strong bitter profile, like those made from the picual olive in Andalucia, but not all: those made from arbequina in Catalonia are softer and sweeter. Sicilian oils by and large have rich, fruity flavor profiles, with only moderate bitterness--while those from Puglia can be real bitter from thy local coratina varietal. Greek oils are hardly ever bitter, and when they err at all it's in in the other directiuon, being a little too soft and flat. It's really about balance and complexity, I think--I can't really abide those very hot Tuscan oils that really do overwhelm with one-note bitterness.

Oct 09, 2014
bob96 in General Topics

Loss of family owned businesses in Italy....A change in Italian Culture?

According to Saviano's Gomorrah, the cammora still controls this business and its small-scale Chinese and Asian players, btu I have to assume that over time, the Chinese will play more and more of a larger role. They may have to get rough with the cammoristi, tho.

Oct 09, 2014
bob96 in Italy

Loss of family owned businesses in Italy....A change in Italian Culture?

Let's please look beyond the shopfronts. Need to notice the enormous role played by clandestine immigrants in maintaining the treasured Italian system of agriculture. Whether in the tomato fields of Puglia or Parma or the citrus and olive groves of Campania, Calabria or Sicily-- Africans, Poles, and other "illegals" do back breaking work under often brutal conditions--stories about their treatment abound in the Italian press. How many big city restaurant kitchens are cleaned, prepped, and staffed by Bangladeshi or Morroccan workers? Who sells trinkets and sweet mostaccioli at Calabrese feste? Who does the sewing in small garment firms in Naples or Pistoia? How many Tunisians take out fishing boats everyday from Sciacca? Italy remains relatively rich in smaller scale rural ånd urban enterprises than, say, France or Germany, but that changes every year, as does the population now 5 percent plus foreign-born. And let's not forget the annual refrain about the number of French cafes and bistros closing....

Oct 08, 2014
bob96 in Italy
1

Substitute for Rosso Conero wine for recipe?

Since Rosso Conero is a sangiovese=montepulciano d'abruzzo blend, you can taker it fromm there. A mid-range Chianti/Classico, or a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo from producers such as Cataldi Madonna, Farnese, Illuminati (try Riparosso), or Ciccio Zaccaginini should work well.

Oct 02, 2014
bob96 in Wine
1

Chris Cosentino Deeply Regrets Television Appearances

Agree. In the context of the big media food game, what does selling out even mean any more? The line's all but evaporated. And while I can sympathize with Cosentino's plaints, his conflicts are those almost everyone deals with at one point or another--only the light's brighter, the noise louder, where he lives and works.

Oct 01, 2014
bob96 in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

Uh...only because of the many quality oils it produces, and the tradition thjat survives even the most blatant tricks played on it. Learn a little about regions and producers and varieties, and how to trust what you buy and how you taste, and you'll see. Italy has more varieties, more tastes, than any other producing country. It has also been beset by fraud (as has Spain and Greece and Turkey), and you always need to buy with some care, as you always do for most everything. There are many postings here about what stuff should taste like, what's worth it, and how to shop for it. Have a look. Tasting a Sicilian DOP at its best is worth more than few minutes attention. Believe me.

Sep 29, 2014
bob96 in Food Media & News

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Fraud: Whole Foods, Rachel Ray, Safeway, Newman's Own, Colavita, Bertolli

Agree. I also cant really believe, after a life spent in Italian Brooklyn and NY, how easy it is here in North Cariotlina, to get quality extra virgin--at Marshall's, of all places, a DOP Val di Mazara Sicilian, at Costco an IDP Peza Koroneiki from Crete, a DOP Dauno from Foggia in Home Goods, all estate-producer bottled and current harvest, at really fair prices. And all delicious. Alas, the 2 Italian delis here, run by ex NJ, NY folks, offer poor choices. There's also a new varietal line @ Whole Foods that's promising--enjoying an excellent Sevilla monovarietal (hojiblanca). I'm lucky to have the chance to avoid the Mediterranean multi-nationals, as sound as many are, for a cabinet of 3 or 4 nice choices that do not break the bank. And good extra virgin, even very good, extra virgin, never has to.

Sep 29, 2014
bob96 in Food Media & News

Draining pasta?

Of course--what was I thinking? Penne with a Chinese strainer. That dextrous (or patient) I ain't.

Sep 28, 2014
bob96 in Home Cooking

Draining pasta?

Depends on the quantity and, to a lesser degree, shape of the pasta. Two boxes of ziti for a big family Sunday ragu dinner need a colander; 4 oz. of penne or spaghetti for a quick late night supper for 2, tongs are fine.

Sep 27, 2014
bob96 in Home Cooking

Large tins of olive oil

Speaking of Greece, or at least Crete, the liter can  of Sitia .03 extra virgin olive oil from the excellent Sitia coop is an amazing values. BTW, even oil from Kalamata is made form the ubiquitous koroneiki olive, with kalamata olives reserved mostly (but not exclusively) for table use. Increasingly, well-made extra virgin from previously bulk-producing lands like Andalucia, Spain, as well as Greece, can be found in large formats and are dependable, often delicious values. I've not found any similar values from Italy, alas.

Sep 25, 2014
bob96 in General Topics

Absolute Tomatoey-est Tasting Tomato Sauce You Will EVER Eat

No, I'm not, not for my taste. And, well, it's worked for at least three generations of us, so I'm not too concerned. For what it's worth, I do often add basil at the end, but like nonna did, tearing the leaves by hand over the pot. She never felt the need to chiffonade. Neither do I. I do hope this is OK.

Sep 19, 2014
bob96 in Home Cooking